Phaedrus’ THE PHILOSOPHER AND THE VICTOR IN THE GYMNASTIC GAMES*

Posted by jlubans on April 16, 2019

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Caption: Black-figure amphora ca. 6th BCE.

How Boastfulness may sometimes be checked.

A Philosopher chancing to find the Victor in a gymnastic contest too fond of boasting, asked him whether his adversary had been the stronger man.
To this the other replied: “Don’t mention it; my strength was far greater.”
“Then, you simpleton,” retorted the Philosopher, “what praise do you deserve, if you, being the stronger, have conquered one who was not so powerful?
You might perhaps have been tolerated if you had told us that you had conquered one who was your superior in strength.”
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Like Krylov’s nightingale who bashes the aspiring yet toneless musicians, or Aesop’s harsh criticism of an ego-tripping writer, Phaedrus tells what to say to the braggadocios among us: If you are so great, how can you revel in a victory over someone weaker?
Good point.
I recall, after leading an organization out of its basement ranking to the top ranking among its peers, asking, Who’s the competition?
While we’d done a good job, the answer to that question was to remind me that anyone could have done so. We were fortunate in being given freedom to innovate, to repurpose resources, and to cut red tape.
We’d stormed the hill; the mountains, the real challenges, lay ahead.

*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.

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© Copyright John Lubans 2019

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